November 2019  
Bible Search
Do You Know You are in a Race?
“Do You Not Know?” Series
Do You Know You are God’s House?
1 Corinthians 9:24
William Barclay said, "Paul was always fascinated by the picture of the athlete."(1) On many occasions Paul used the image of an athlete to depict a spiritual truth. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul uses the image of a runner to remind believers that they are runners in a race.
The Corinthians would quickly relate to the image for the Isthmian games were held every fifth year just outside of Corinth. These games were second only to the Olympian Games. These games were the chief glory of the city.
There were several events such as wrestling, boxing, throwing the discus, but the race was the major attraction at the games. Using the image of a runner Paul asks, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain."
Paul saw himself, as well as every believer, as a runner in a race. He asks, "Do you know that you are a runner in a race?" Let's look at this race by first noticing:
1. The Participation in The Race
Paul takes the image of a runner and describes a spiritual race in which the participants are those who have been saved. He references “those who run”.
In the ancient games, only Greek citizens were allowed to participate. So the analogy is clear.  Paul is referencing the citizens of heaven.
Now the first thing that comes to mind is,, “But I’m not there yet>’  I’m still on the earth.  I’m not a citizen of heaven. I’m a citizen of earth. 
But there is such a thing as dual citizenship; that is, a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizens may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.
The epitaph of the great inventor Alexander Graham Bell reads:
Alexander Graham Bell
March 3, 1847
A Citizen of the U.S.A.
Even though he was born in Scotland, he was proud of his American citizenship.
Every believer has dual citizenship. They are a citizen of the country of their physical birth and a citizen of heaven by their spiritual birth.
In fact, I am more a citizen of heaven than I am of the United States.  I could revoke or have revoked my citizenship here.  But as a born-again child of God, I will spend eternity there. 
I’m just spending a little time here.  It’s where I get my mail. 
In fact, as a citizen of Heaven, I have more in common with heaven than I do earth.  Next week we’re going to look at why we are not be be wordly, but separate and different as the children of God. 
And as believers we rejoice in our heavenly citizenship. We shout from a grateful heart that our "names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20).
Now notice what Paul says:  He says “those who run in a race all run”. 
I want to say, “Well. Duh!”  Why else would you be in a race if not to run?  But a lot of Christians live there life as if they don’t know that.  Apparently there were some here in Corinth who didn’t realize it. 
That’s why Paul is asking the question, “Don’t you know?”.
We need to understand that in this spiritual race, every believer is a runner. Some of you just want to sit on the sidelines and yell and be critical of the way others are running. Listen:  there are Christians are not the spectators.  The audience is the lost world around us. 
The word for "race" used in 1 Corinthians 9:24 is “stadion”.  From it comes our word for stadium. The image is of a race in a stadium. The runner is on the track and surrounding him is a stadium filled with people watching him run.
So get the picture:  When God saves us, He enters us into this race called life, and He puts us right into the middle of the world to be on display.  And as we run, the world is watching how we perform. 
Listen: it makes a difference how you run. 
As parents, our children are watching how we run. As grandparents, our grandchildren are watching us run. Our family members, our neighbors, and the people we work with are watching how we run. A poorly run race translates into a poor testimony.
Those around you will take note of how you handle crisis and disappointment.  They will see how you respond when unfairly treated.  They are watching when there is a family crisis or financial fall-out. 
And how a believer runs his or her race is going to have either a positive or negative impact on the life of others. A poorly run race can turn people from Christ, while a properly run race can turn people to Christ. We must never forget that every Christian is a runner. It is how we are running that makes the difference.
And whether you realize it or not, whether you lie it or not, you are display as you participate in the race.
Secondly, we see:
2. The Passion of the Race
Verses 24b-25
The race was run with one objective in mind-to win the prize. No runner entered the race just for the pleasure of running. Behind his running was a burning passion to win the prize.
In the ancient games, the prize was a “crown”.  Better described it was a wreath made of leaves and placed on the head of the victor.
You might think, “That’s not much of a prize; just a few leaves woven into a laurel wreath.  But remember, that "prize" or "crown" not only represented victory in the race, but also fame, acclaim, and becoming a national hero much like an Olympian Champion today.
They primarily ran for the honor of representing their Ruler.
In fact, one historian notes that "these were the most coveted honours in the whole Greek world."
It was winning the prize that consumed the runner. It was why he trained and sternly disciplined himself. The goal, ambition, and passion of the runner was to win the prize.
And now here is Paul saying, “You are in a race also.  Therefore, just like the Olympians run to win, you run in the same way.  Run to obtain the prize.”
The word "obtain" means to lay hold of, to seize. Paul was calling on the Corinthians to run in such a way that they could hold in their hands the prize of victory.  In fact, the beginning of verse 25 speaks of those who “compete for the prize.”
Paul is using the image of a runner striving fervently to win the prize. I find it interesting that we get our word "agony" from it.
I know some folk who put more intensity into walking at the mall than they do running the Christian race.  I warn you with every fiber of my being, don’t get in the way of the walkers at the mall.  It might be OK for you to want to get to a store to buy something, but everyone knows the mall exists for those who walk there!
Paul is not describing a race for the weekend runner. This is a race in which one gives himself completely. There has been a commitment on their part and a dedication to obtaining the prize. There is a passion in their heart that drives them, motivates them, and consumes them to become a victorious runner.
And he tells us there is an eternal prize for this runner. Yet, it is not a prize that will be given just for participating in the race. Just being in the race is not enough to obtain the prize. Every believer is in the race, but not every believer will win the prize.
When Paul speaks of the earthly race, he says that only one person can and will win the race. They spared no expense or effort to receive what Paul describes in verse 25 as a "perishable crown".   As I mentioned earlier, the wreath for the winner was made from leaves. It would wither shortly after the leaves were plucked from the tree. The prize for the earthly race was perishable.
However, in the heavenly race every believer can be a winner. But those who do win are those who “compete for the prize.”  And what is the prize?  The crown for which the believer strives is "imperishable."
What does that mean?  It means that one day we will be rewarded for the race God has given us to run. Some will have rewards waiting for them when they get to heaven.  They will know the joy of being recognized as one who brought honor to their King. 
Others will have embarrassment awaiting them.   There we will get to see what we could have done if we had cared enough.  We will get to reflect on what could have been and should have been.  You may say, “Reward is not important to me.  I don’t care about them.”  You will when you get there. 
There should be a passion to be the best runner we can be and a passion to run the best race we can run. When we stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat, to hear the well-done of our Savior and to be rewarded for the race we ran ought to be a desire that consumes every believer.
Have you ever seen an athlete in the Olympics have one of those moments when they slip or fall or miss a move or were injured?  Most often, when the camera catches up with them, they will be off by themselves crying. Why? Because their dream was to win a medal.  That had been the passion of their life. It is what they had worked for, in many cases, for years. And now they have nothing but the embarrassment and disappointment and frustration to live with. 
I think that same kind of scene is going to play out in Heaven at the judgment seat of Christ.  Jesus describes it in Matthew 25.
He tells the story of a man who gives his servants responsibilities to take care of in his absence, and after a while he returns to see how they are doing.  Two of the three have good news; one has done nothing with what he had. 
Listyen to what Jesus says of that servant:
Matthew 25:30
Paul describes the same thing in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15.  There the setting is building a building, and Paul describes in those terms what will happen some day when we appear before the Lord. 
1 Corinthians 3:9-15
Do you have a passion to win the prize or will you have to stand over in the dark crying somewhere when you get to heaven?
Lastly, notice:
3. The Preparation for the Race
Paul says in verse 25 that everyone who competes for the prize "is temperate in all things." He is describing the preparation that a runner goes through in order to be able to win the prize. The word "temperate" speaks of exercising self-restraint. It speaks of the discipline that is practiced by the runner.
Now let me show you how these individual teachings we’ve been looking at come together at this point. 
Remember, first of all we learned that we are “in Christ”.  We are brand new people and the old nas passed away.  And at the moment of our salvation, we enter the race Paul is describing here. 
Now if a Christian is to be a winner in the spiritual race, he must be temperate in all things.  Another way of saying that is we must die to self.  We’ve already learned that.  We are to consider ourselves dead indeed to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 
In fact, I am crucified, buried and resurrected to a new way of life in Jesus Christ.
In fact, I no longer am a slave to sin.  I am a servant of God, and I only have to do what He tells me to do.  In fact, I am the very dwelling place of God.  The Holy Spirit Himself lives in me.  And as I yield to His control, and say no to my earthly desires, I am becoming temperate, I am exercising self-control, in all things.  
Therefore, I can compete in the race to win the prize. 
Listen:  Far too many believers are running a poor race because they are mastered by their flesh rather than mastering their flesh. Instead of their flesh being a slave to God, they are still serving sin and the flesh. 
The self-life must be crucified. We have to come to the cross and let the Holy Spirit nail us to the cross. The only way we will ever live is to die.
And we’ve got to stay dead! Too many of us keep getting off the sacrificial altar. The athlete faces a daily battle with the temptation to sleep in, eat improperly, and not train as strenuously. However, if he or she is to be a winner, there can be no vacation in their discipline. It is a daily matter. The flesh must be constantly kept under control.
And the truth is, it is impossible for any believer to keep the flesh under control in their own strength. It takes more than will-power. It takes divine power.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we have the secret to the control of the self-life. We read, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Now a believer is made up of three parts. Do you know what those three parts are?" "Body, soul, and spirit."
The answer is correct but the order is backwards. You will notice that the order given in the Word of God is "spirit and soul and body." You say that I am just playing on words. No, the order is significant. Actually, it is the reason some are running properly and some are running poorly.
Let's take the order that is often given, body, soul, and spirit. This order implies that the body is directing the soul. The soul is that part of man where his or her will, desires, appetites and feelings are located. If the body is directing the soul, then the will, desires, appetites, and feelings of a person are dominated by the body (flesh).
On the other hand, if we take the divine order given in the Scripture, it is not the body controlling the soul, but rather the spirit. The spirit is that part of man that enables him to communicate with God. When the spirit controls the soul, the will, desires, appetites and feelings are dominated by God. Which one that is in control determines what kind of runner we are.
Many Olympic winners have earned fame and honor for their achievements. Some have embodied legends. Perhaps the most legendary of them is our own Oklahoman, Jim Thorpe. In the 1912 Olympics he won two-gold medals and two Challenger Prizes. The King of Sweden praised Thorpe by saying, "You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."
As a runner in the heavenly race, our objective is not to become the greatest runner. The goal is to be a runner that wins the prize. Do you know that you are a runner in a race? How are you running?
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